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Strictly come dancing on ice

Strictly come dancing on ice

I always have Tampere’s annual Snow Tango World Championships highlighted in my diary so I was gutted to hear it might have fallen by the wayside this year. Perhaps they heard I had been in training for a go at the title?

Those of us who love our tango had Tampere’s annual Snow Tango World Championships highlighted in our diaries for February 6 this year. I was gutted to be told today it might have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they heard I had been in training for a go at the title? My thinking was that dancing on snow levels the playing field, as it were. Well, there’s many a slip… (insert own snow/ice joke here).

In fact, the non-event turns out to be Tampere’s Winter Dance Festival, also in February, but which seems to be a different thing entirely. That has been cancelled, its website says rather quaintly, ‘due to circumstances beyond our reach’ (

The Snow Tango website needs updating but here is it, with pictures of previous years:-

The Finns love their odd competitions, with the World Sauna Championship in August and Wife Carrying contest in July ( being ones you’d think you might be in with a chance of carrying off (sorry). (Now that James has a wife and has been in training with his daily three-mile run – – he has, er, run out of excuses for trying the latter one. Come on, he’s hardly going to tell his new wife she’s too heavy, is he?) For the sauna, by the way, the time to beat is a mere three minutes and 46 seconds, though temperatures do reach 110c.

Anyway, back to dance. The Nordic soul still needs its dose of Latin fire during the cold winter nights, so I was also pleased to hear about the Oulu Tango Week Festival from January 4-10. (

If you haven’t been to Finland, you might be surprised to hear that tango has such a hold on the Finnish soul, with a long history. There has been a tango song in the top 20 every decade, even during the 1960s when pop swept the board everywhere else. I had a chat this week with Christine Denniston – author of a book on the Golden Age of Tango ( and Britain’s leading authority on the tango – about whether Finnish tango is closer to Argentine or ballroom tango. She thought ballroom, because of the style, I thought Argentine because of the emotion. Well, she is the expert so until I organise a dance-off, let’s go with her opinion.

In Helsinki, meanwhile, they are working on the 12th Helsinki Flamenco Festival, stamping onstage on from February 11 to March 2. The festival opens with a discussion posing the rather forlorn question: ‘How is it to be a flamenco artist in the Nordic countries?’ Hopefully the answer will be ‘Just like in Spain, only colder.’ (Or, given the Arctic weather hitting Europe right now – maybe not.) A couple of Spanish flamenco companies will join dancers from Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The festival closes on 2 March with a concert by guitarist Vicente Amigo.

Personally, given the news from Tampere, I might be heading off to warmer climes. I was in Argentina last December and, of course, made it up to party town Punta Del Este in Uruguay. However, I didn’t have time to spend more than a day in Montevideo, so I’d like to go back for a longer stay. It claims the title ‘Birthplace of Tango’ because famed singer Carlos Gardel was a native (although the famous singer was actually born in the lovely pink city of Toulouse – sshh!, don’t tell).

Montevideo is the place where I was once famously refused tango lessons because I was only there three weeks. They do take it seriously, though I also recall being told in Santiago de Chile in the 1990s: ‘The Uruguayans invented tango, the Argentines perfected it. Here in Chile we actually dance it!’ Well, Finland too – where they can perhaps claim to be ‘chillier’. Ouch.

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